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The Computer Disk that Helped Topple A Government

This is the story of a little computer disk that was so mighty that it helped bring a powerful government to its knees and finally collapse. All this power, yet the disk is so small that it can easily fit in one's shirt pocket.

Now just what vital information could be on this disk that could cause the failure of a government? Military code? National Security Secrets? A Madame's client list? It's none of those. The disk contained something even more important: A software program that enables a person to type set, layout and otherwise produce a publication. Since when is an issue of a publication so important that it can help the downfall of a government? Read on.

It is said that "The power of the press only goes to those who can afford to own one." Until about 1985, it took a minimum of $200,000 for equipment to set up a small publishing firm. In 1985, with the advent of desktop publishing, that price dropped to $10,000 -- or less. Today, in 1996, the same equipment can be purchased for under $2,500.

When Communist hard-liners deposed Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on August 19, 1991 they closed down major media, including newspapers, in an effort to control information being released.

Not to be completely shut down from publishing news of the coup, a graphic designer by the name of Yuri Tregubov -- who already owned desktop publishing equipment -- visited the Russian Parliament which was Boris Yeltsin's stronghold. Tregubov and his associates, using the desktop publishing equipment, typed Yeltsin's emergency declaration in the Russian language. Within hours of Yeltsin's drafting the text, a laser printer was printing out the master which was then photocopied at the parliament. About 1,000 copies were distributed.

Its headline announces, "To the Citizens of Russia", and the text reads in part, "During the night of August 18 to 19, 1991, the legally elected president of the country was forced from power. Regardless of the reasons behind this action, we are dealing with a right-wing reactionary, unconstitutional coupe. We call upon the citizens of Russia to give the leaders of the Putsch the answer they deserve and to demand that they return the country to its normal constitutional development." The declaration is signed, "V.N. Yeltsin, I.S. Silayev, R.I. Khasbultov". At the bottom right is the phrase, "Read and pass on to someone else."

On August 21, Tregubov and his associates produced another special edition. The headline reads "The Putsch Leaders Are Hanging in Midair." The bottom head asks, "Are the Rats Abandoning Ship?"

The success of these two publications has become obvious. While all other forms of newspaper publishing had been suspended by the coup leaders, there were not enough guards to keep watch on every room of every house and office. With desktop publishing, everything one needs to publish will fit on an average-size desktop. Hence, the term "desktop publishing." Getting the news out, in this case, made all the difference in the world -- or should I say future government?

The computer disk used to set the type contained the Cyrillic version of a program named "PageMaker." This software is the same one (except English version) that was used to produce Collectible Newspapers.